Sixteen Canadians are now several steps closer to becoming Canada's two newest astronauts, destined for a six-month stay aboard the International Space Station, after being plucked from a field of thousands.
The 15 men and one woman endured a number of physically and mentally demanding tests, including an underwater escape from an upside-down helicopter, and simulated fires and floods.
One of the 16 candidates is former Olympian Peter Giles, who was born in Lake Echo, N.S., and now lives in Halifax. He was a member of the Canadian team that finished seventh in the four-man 1,000-metre kayaking event at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Giles, who was the assistant chef de mission for the Canadian team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, holds a PhD in applied physics from California's Stanford University.
The Canadian Space Agency received more than 5,351 applications for the two jobs, and the field has now been narrowed to the surviving 16, who range in age from 26 to 40.
"I am very pleased with the process," Canadian Space Agency president Steve MacLean said in an interview Monday.
"We were blind to all the secondary factors. We were blind to gender, we were blind to religion, blind to where the person came from and also blind to language. So I really feel that we have the best 16 that the country has to offer, based on that process."
The candidates were selected through a rigorous process that began with computer screening narrowing the applicant field to 1,000 people. A team then read all 1,000 resumes and picked 80 people to be interviewed.
After the interviews, 44 people were selected to undergo a series of six intensive tests. In addition to a physical fitness test and interview, the candidates had to learn to control the Canadarm - the mechanical arm used by space shuttles - after three hours of instruction. They also took a flight aptitude test.
The following are the Canadian Space Agency's Top 16 candidates to become astronauts:
Matthew Bamsey from Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que., born in Burlington, Ont.
Desmond Brophy from Regina, now living in Edwards, Calif.
Christopher Denny from Toronto
Peter Giles from Halifax, born in Lake Echo, N.S.
Jeremy Hansen from Cold Lake, Alta., born near Ailsa Craig, Ont.
Allyson Hindle from Vancouver, born in Winnipeg
Ryan Hunter from Mississauga, Ont., now living in Boston
Jameel Janjua from Alouette, Que., born in Calgary
Joshua Kutryk from Alouette, Que., born in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.
Mark McCullins from Brighton, Ont., raised in Winnipeg
Stuart Rogerson from Cold Lake, Alta., raised in Powell River, B.C.
David Saint-Jacques, living in Montreal and Nunavik, Que., born in Quebec City
Geoffrey Steeves from Victoria, born in Halifax
Kenneth Welch, born and raised in Cardston, Alta., now living in Sweden
Keith Wilson from Winnipeg
Bruce Woodley from Richmond, B.C., now living in Palo Alto, Calif.